Yes, you DO need an editor!
Two years ago I was happy to reconnect with a former public relations agency client who sought me out to promote his glossy new hardcover book on the evolution of retail store design. Against my better judgment and to my ultimate regret, I accepted the assignment.
And then I read the book. It was awful, and my client wouldn’t admit it. On the contrary, he said he’d been told by people whose judgment he trusted that it was an excellent read. It wasn’t.
But a promise is a promise, and I sent the tome around with a press release and cover letter touting the author’s preeminence in his field and explaining why the content was unique and important (given that I couldn’t find other compilations of information about retail store design). I left out any mention of literary quality.
I did succeed in producing some hits in the local business press and some national architecture and retail industry trades, and I got him a five-minute interview on National Public Radio (before which he refused coaching as it would have meant adding a few hundred dollars to my fee, and after which he complained that five minutes wasn’t long enough for him to tell his story).
My client ended up selling a pile of his books at a retail trade show but I’m not sure if he ever sold more than that. Its Amazon.com rating is laughable. That’s partly because the book wasn’t well marketed. But mostly it’s because it’s not a very good read—and it could have been.
The message to authors who self-publish: take the budget you set aside for cover design and HIRE AN EDITOR instead. Give yourself a fighting chance to get positive reviews that you don’t have to pay for, and then you can put a fancy cover on the second edition.
If you’re not convinced that an editor is worth the money, read the articles referenced here: Study Shows the Value of Copyediting.